What is SPIN farming?
It wasn't raining but it was wet and everyone had their hoods covering their heads. We slowly made our way along the winding forest path towards the ocean. Our teacher Jesse would stop occasionally and show us different things. There was a man there who wasn't part of our class. He had been in the class the prior year and had come back for the day to see what else he could pick up. Between stops I struck up a conversation with this man, he said he was going to try to do SPIN farming. It was the first time I had ever heard of SPIN farming.
What the letters in S.P.I.N. stand for are Small Plot Intensive. It is a production system that tries to maximize the production from a small piece of land with high value crops. Crops are grown in quick succession in a standard sized bed. When you only work with a small area you can use techniques and tools that wouldn't be economical on a large piece of land. With more people going into small scale agriculture better tools are being developed with the small farmer in mind. It is a great time to take action and make the move into it.
When my dad told me that he was closing down the kitchen cabinet shop we had been working at I knew that I wanted to start my farm. I had been looking for a production system I could use but hadn't found what I was looking for yet. I started to visit local farms but none of them had something I wanted to replicate. I had to broaden my search. I decided to look for the best SPIN farmers. I knew that Jean-Martin Fortier, author of The Market Gardener, was doing quite well with his farm in Quebec. He was on 1.5 acres but my problem with his system was that he had 4 years of farming experience when he first started, I had zero. The size also seemed quite large for someone with little knowledge to jump into. I was still working at the cabinet shop during the week so I narrowed my search to anywhere I could get to and back within a weekend. I was thinking from Alberta to Oregon would be my range for finding someone who was doing this really successfully. I was looking for a production system but I was also looking for someone to teach me how to use it.
I had been listening to this podcast named Permaculture Voices for a couple years but I didn't listen to every episode. I first found the podcast after trying to find some Jean-Martin Fortier interviews. At the end of one of the episodes the host Diego mentioned the name of a SPIN farm in Kelowna. It was in my range of travel so I decided to go check it out. I contacted the owner Curtis Stone about a tour. It turned out that Curtis didn't do tours of his farm he did consultations. Perfect! I was in, we set a date to meet in a month. He had a YouTube channel filled with educational videos, my tour was going to be a mini workshop. I started to learn and I felt good about this system. It seemed like I could make this fit into what I wanted to do.
I tired to educate myself more about SPIN farming and his particular methods so I could make the most out of being there and understand concepts. I looked for any other resources and found out he was on the Permaculture Voices podcast, he actually had a weekly series on it where Diego, the host, was interviewing him as his season progressed. It was exactly what I was looking for, there was so much information on the podcasts. Through listening to the podcast I found out about a new course that Curtis and Luke Callahan were launching, www.profitableurbanfarming.com. I had signed up for the course within a couple days of finding out about it. I still had 2 weeks before I was supposed to go tour the farm. The course was supposed to take 10 weeks if you followed the weekly schedule but I focused on the production side of the course material and did most of it before I went to see the farm.
By the time I went to go do my tour I had already went crazy with a sod cutter, tore up a good portion of my lawn, built this website and had written my first blog post. The tour was awesome, Curtis showed me things about production and bookkeeping, we even had a chance to talk about my future plans and things I wanted to do. I finally felt like I had the piece I needed to start my farm. I went home and got to work. The last 5 months have been a blur, so much to do but it`s already been a rewarding experience. I know I still have a large volume of work in front of me but I am excited to see where I will end up in the future now that I have finally found a place to start.